The Foundation’s Anti-Racist Task Force explores a full spectrum of anti-racism work. Our staff are gaining more resources and tools to learn from. As a special update, a few of the task force members are sharing books and articles they’ve read, podcasts they’re currently listening to, and movies they’ve seen that teach them more and more about BIPOC experiences.
Jordan Daniels, Communications and Creative Specialist
Lessons from How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
The biggest lesson I’ve taken from the book is the application of the racism spectrum. Before this book, I thought of racism and antiracism as binary, with the latter being the destination you can’t return from. Kendi’s tool opened my eyes to the idea that we exist on a spectrum, that each day, each moment, we are moving along the continuum throughout the choice of racism, not racism, and antiracism.
While this initially sounds discouraging because it reminds me that even I can still commit racist ideas despite my work to unlearn, it gives me grace in understanding that none of these are a label or identity. They’re actions I choose to make regularly, which gives me permission to explore and expand my efforts, and helps me understand where other people might be at along the spectrum too!
Jessica Kort, Director of Communications and Strategy
Reflecting on the New York Times “1619 Project”
The 1619 Project and podcast series twists the kaleidoscope to view the United States as it was born with the beginning of slavery on these shores in 1619. It portrays our culture and highest-valued institutions as grown from roots in slavery and Black Americans’ contributions. We see not only the stain of slavery and the struggles through unequal status as influences on today’s daily life, but their direct causation and connection to today’s celebrated treasures and challenging systems. Beyond how slavery informed our current economy, we see how the intricate webs woven by the anti-Black racism embedded in slavery underlie who holds land, resources, and wealth. We see how vibrant and adaptive Black culture laid the designs for federal healthcare programs, American music, food, and democracy itself.
The building blocks of this country and much of what we hold dear are the products of generations of Black pain, resilience, creativity, passion, visions for a better future, and constant work.
We must learn and relearn the full story of slavery. In order to understand our own parts in this system, we must understand its origins through multiple perspectives. The project’s stories only scratch the surface of struggles Black Americans face today. The entire work provided me with tools to view our society from other perspectives and reminded me that continued learning and listening must be part of an approach to unravel and shift inequitable and oppressive systems.
Betina Oliver, Front Desk Office and Accounting Assistant
Reflection on The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye gives readers a glimpse into the mind of a young black girl, and her desire to fit into the world’s blond hair, blue-eyed definition of beauty. It describes Peckola’s observation of the world, and her ache to belong to a world that has discarded her.
Morrison dives into the lasting effects white dominant culture has on “the others.” The effects have a way they get passed down through generations. And beauty is not the only thing on the table, but also worthiness. The author explores the shackles we place on ourselves and as a result, who we are allowed to become. The cuts may have healed but the scars run deep.
Charlene Seidle, Executive Vice President
Lesson from Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates is a slim volume whose size belies the layers of trauma and painfully-obtained counsel between its pages. Before I read this book a few years ago, I did not know anything about the conversation that I now have learned so many of my friends and neighbors with children of color, especially boys of color, have at a certain point in their children’s life. The conversation forces the parent to go against their natural instinct to protect their children from the horrors of life—and in so doing, the parent is indeed trying desperately to protect and prevent.
As a woman, as a Jew, as a leader of an organization wielding disproportionate power, Between the World and Me importantly both reflected themes I recognized from my own tradition—the imperative of struggle despite the many ways Coates painstakingly outlines American systems constructed and operated to work against the black body—America’s heritage as Coates called it. The book also forced me to confront how my power could and had been used to oppress others. And forced me to challenge some of the ways I thought I was adding value to “the struggle,” which could actually diminish impact and resistance.
Between the World and Me posed more questions than it answered, which is ultimately how I feel about philanthropic work. The world contains so many narratives of injustice and hatred. Philanthropy, when done righteously, should be a meaningful struggle in and of itself, constantly questioning reality, making space and room for those with lived experiences, writing oneself out of the story of others so the real dreaming can begin.
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